100 Club owner warns music venues are on ‘cliff edge’
19 October, 2018
Jeff Horton giving evidence at the Palace of Westminster
OFF to parliament, where the future of the West End’s live music community was highlighted by Jeff Horton, the owner of the legendary 100 Club in Oxford Street, as he went to share his wide experience of the industry with a select committee.
Jeff joined Mark Davyd, of the Music Venue Trust, and musicians ShaeDow and Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons at the hearings – and he told MPs of the cliff edge facing West End venues today and the knock-on effect it would have on our cultural landscape at large.
Diary, being keen to hit the dance floor at the drop of a hat, is all too aware of the amazing clubs and gig venues lost and stymied by stringent licensing laws and the effect this has had on music – from how it is produced to where it is listened to.
And it was refreshing to hear such industry bigwigs tell it how it is and ask for government help to ensure smaller venues are helped to give a leg-up to the musicians of tomorrow.
He outlined to MPs how the 100 Club’s longevity gave it a more solid base than other venues; he revealed he had been running the club for 34 years, while his father and grandmother had been involved since 1958; and that urgent action was needed to help gig venues.
“The 100 Club is the oldest, longest running music venue on the planet,” he said, while revealing the club had been hit with a one-year rise of his business rates of a whopping 47 per cent.
“Our longevity is a handle that makes it easier for us. We have a lot of heritage and history to draw on.”
But even with such legendary status, the 100 Club has had significant issues like others in the industry.
“The financial issues around our club have hit us very hard,” he said.
“We have very nearly closed on occasions in the last 10 years.
“We were lucky that we got two big firms to sponsor us because we have that history, but others are not as fortunate.
“My dad used to keep the cuttings of reviews of shows in the 1960s and 1970s.
“When he got fed up with cutting them out, he just kept the papers. When I looked through the classified ads at the back there were something like 110 venues in Soho and the West End alone. It has just fallen off a cliff.”
And this will have a knock-on effect for the music industry and the economy in general, he added, highlighting just how much music is worth to the British economy – an area where we are still world leaders.
“I saw that in 2014, something like 70 per cent of all headline acts at British music festivals had played at the 100 Club at some point,” he revealed.]
“That must be the same for other grassroot venues. It would be very difficult for this to be the case in the future if the closures continue. It is hard to think where the headliners for Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight festivals will come from if there is no place for them to start. We still produce at least 7 per cent of all records and downloads sold worldwide. This will not continue without any type of help, and the impact will hit everyone.
“It will be a sad consequence because there are so few music venues left.”
He added that the loss of venues had many hidden effects, drawing on his experience of being a father to two children aged 22 and 18.
“They have a lot of energy,” he said. “For them to come in and see artists and let their hair down and get rid of their energy is so important. We have issues with kids and anti-social behaviour. Everywhere they look there are signs saying you can’t cycle here, you can’t skateboard, no ball games. Venues can offer them something.”